Veteran dying of lung cancer gets benefits just in time.

VFW Post 6912 Service Officer Duane Croniser

“Vietnam veterans came home to a country that had forgotten them,” said VFW Post 6912 Service Officer Duane Croniser of Lowville, N.Y.

“... I never forgot.”

Before being elected Post Service Officer two years ago, Croniser worked at the Lewis County Veterans Service Agency. It was there that he assisted Herbert Young, a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange. Young was his mother's neighbor, so it was personal.

Years later, Croniser's mother told him Young was dying of lung cancer at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Utica, N.Y.

“I’ve always had a passion for helping veterans,” said Croniser, who is a retired Marine with 30+ years of service under his belt. “When I heard Herbert needed me, I didn’t think twice.”

It was a Sunday evening when Croniser showed up at Young’s bedside. Young had just had surgery, and the doctors feared he didn’t have much time.

Determined to work quickly, Croniser called VFW Department Service Officer Thomas Todaro, who works at the VA Regional Office in Buffalo.

“Given the VA’s backlog, Herbert needed an advocate to push his paperwork through,” said Todaro. “I was glad to take on that role. No one should have to navigate the system alone.”

Todaro personally delivered Young’s paperwork to Karen Bracikowski, Coach of the Pre-Determination Team at the Buffalo Regional Office, and asked that it be expedited. In just three days, Young was rated 100% service connected and granted aid and attendance.

Finally getting the benefits he earned meant everything to Young. He died just two weeks later …

But it didn’t stop there. Croniser made sure Young got the proper military funeral—gun salute, flag folding and all.

“None of this would have been possible without [Post 6912] Commander Milton Lawton and Quartermaster Peter McLane,” said Croniser. “They are a huge help to me and to the veterans I serve.”

When the dust settled, Croniser and Todaro got back to work. This time helping Young’s widow get Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

“I knew Herbert would want us to go to bat for her, so that's exactly what we did," said Croniser.

As a fellow Vietnam veteran, Todaro was proud to stand by his comrade.

“Herbert did a service to his country, and his sacrifice will never be forgotten. We’re just glad we got there in time,” Todaro concluded.



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